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Artificial Satellites: A Modest Proposal, 51 American Journal of International Law 74 (1957)


Announcements in 1955 by officials of the United States and the Soviet Union of plans to launch artificial satellites into outer space for the purpose of scientific investigation during the International Geophysical Year 1957-1958 have given added impetus to the already considerable discussion and speculation concerning the legal status of the outer space expanses. More recently, a story in the New York Times reports new scientific findings that it may now be possible to construct satellites which can safely survive the return trip through the earth's atmosphere. This development perhaps calls for some further consideration of some of the rather complex problems posed by man's new ventures into outer space. Until the appearance of the recently reported findings, it had been widely assumed that the International Geophysical Year satellites would never return intact to the earth. It was thought that a satellite, which sooner or later must begin to spiral toward the earth's surface, would heat up and burn like a meteor when encountering the denser atmosphere surrounding the earth. Now, however, it appears that the analogy to meteors was not wholly accurate and that satellites can be constructed which will withstand the heating effect of impact with the denser atmosphere closer to the earth's surface.

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